January 1, 2016
I started this year with one less tooth in my head. I'm sure I've talked here before about my candy-filled childhood and the fact that every tooth I own has been a victim of sometimes multiple cavities. I feel like my childhood wasn't really that feral, but I got away with all kinds of unhygienic behavior. I sucked the first two fingers on my left hand until I was eleven.
But I was the third child and it was the 1970s.
Anyway, my back right molar had borne the brunt of more dental work than any tooth has a right to. Because of my slack oral hygiene, by the time I was Jackson's age this molar was more filling than tooth -- a giant silver-mercury filling that probably took ten points off my IQ as soon as Dr. Diefendorf packed it in. Dr. Diefendorf looked like Darren, the husband in Bewitched, and his first name -- Warren -- was only one letter off. I got to know Warren pretty well, him and all the Highlights magazines in his waiting room. He used to give me a lollipop after he'd cleaned my teeth.
ANYWAY, by the time I reached my thirties some of those giant old fillings were starting to fail, and Dr. Cooper was more than happy to drill them out one by one. There was a messy period around age 35 where he did three teeth in one go (upper left) and the amount of mercury he released with his drill put me in bed for two days*. I don't even remember how many root canals he had to do to restore some semblance of health to my mouth, but he likes to joke that not only did I put his son through college but that UCLA named a building for me**.
So this poor molar, after being filled and refilled and root canal-ed and capped with gold, got an under-the-gumline crack in it (despite the fact that I wear a $400 custom night guard to keep me from grinding my teeth down to nubs while I sleep) and started eating away at the bone in my jaw. I didn't feel a thing, but a savvy dental hygienist (the one who possibly accused me of having an eating disorder***)(we got past it) noticed a shadow on my X-ray. Talk began of extracting the tooth and replacing it with an implant, and then UCLA was notified and began drawing up plans for an alabaster zeppelin port.
*Or it may have been a cold.
**I hope it was a swimming pool in the shape of a spit sink!
***Which I did, as a teen, but why in hell would I want to talk to her about it?
During my consultation with Dr. Cooper's partner, Dr. Shapiro, my eyes must have lit up with dorky joy when he told me that the hole where my tooth had been was going to be filled with cadaver material, because his face reflected my excitement with a nerdery all of its own. Between him and Peewee's veterinary cardiologist, Dr. Russell (whom I also highly recommend), and Dr. Goldenberg who fixed Peewee's corneal ulcer last month, I am a medical obsessive's dream audience. Tell me more fascinating minutia about bone grafts/kidney failure/retinal blood flow, I took the whole day off just to do this.
Long story slightly shorter, Dr. Shapiro put one foot on my neck and pulled ("You may hear an unpleasant cracking sound") and my rotten old tooth slid out in one piece. He gave me the tooth in a sandwich bag but I'm still a little peeved with myself for not asking for the gold crown back, too. I guess they'll melt it down and save somebody else's tooth with it, which for me at this point in my life is a lot easier than donating my body to science so that my bones can be ground up and turned into a healing paste.